All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Friendly Dog Growls

Dear Marie,
I have a basset hound. He is extremely friendly, with a few exceptions. My question is, when he is approached (when in his bed), even if he sees you coming and wags his tail, as soon as you reach him
and pet him he does a grumble/growl (he doesn't show any teeth) and he does that sometimes when
petting him goodbye when leaving. Is this anything I should be concerned about? Also, sometimes
when getting ready to leave he goes in the back and watches me leave through the doggie door, why
is that?
Any help would be appreciated, thanks.

Dear Kari,
Has your basset hound always behaved in this manner or is this new conduct? If the growling started recently, red health flags are certainly waving. With the tail wagging going on until you reach him, he may be worried that you will touch a painful area. It is essential that you take him to the vet to rule out an injury or another health problem.

However, if he has always acted in this way, than you might consider that the growling isn't really a growl. Some dogs vocalize in strange ways. I used to have a German Shepherd who got so excited when she saw me, she made a growling sound that changed to an almost human voice. Sometimes the tones that came ringing out of her great big, tooth-filled mouth sounded like a baby saying, “mama…mama…mama.” It was very funny.

When a dog is truly growling in a fearful or warning fashion, there is usually other body language going on. For example, his lips may roll back over his teeth. He will tuck his tail between his legs or tightly up next to his body. He will appear to shrink away from whoever is approaching. The hair on his back may rise. His muscles will tense up. If none of these other signals are being presented and you can easily approach your dog and pet him, then the growling is most likely just some unusual vocalization.

When he runs to the doggie door and peers back at you at the times you are leaving for work, he is again communicating with you. Dogs are not stupid. He knows when you pick up your keys and head for the door, that the most important part of his life will be gone for a very long time. By running to HIS door, he is simply expressing to you in the best way he can, “Wouldn't you rather come out here and play with me instead?” Next time he does this, look into his eyes and I’m sure you’ll see that imploring message.

Perhaps you can build some playtime into your morning routine. It may require getting up a little earlier and going out into the cold (ugh!), but I think it will really make your little guy’s day. For a dog, the sun rises and sets with his human. He has the innocent love and loyalty of a child, and those feelings nevermature or change. He craves acceptance and assurance, and in return for these small things he will adore you for the rest of his life. The few years that we are lucky enough to spend with each pet that graces our lives go by so quickly. Therefore, we should not let a day go by without making sure our pets feel secure and loved.

This is something all pet parents should consider – that no matter how busy we are, we must be certain to spend quality time with all of our pets each day—not just a pat on the head in passing, but actually getting out and throwing a ball, brushing a coat, and doing all the fun things that animals love.  This action will make you feel good too.

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